Local Women Entrepreneurs Strive Through Food Production

By Camille Dupire Jordan Times, Amman

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A USAID representative tells The Jordan Times that many home-based businesses, including those in artisanal food processing, have enormous potential to promote women's involvement in Jordan's workforce.

AMMAN

After her husband was forced to retire, Ekhlas Al Jawarneh, a mother of six, found herself in dire need of a steady income to provide for her family.

With no other way to cover any of the household's expenses, the Karak resident resorted to what she knew best: making dairy products with the hope of selling them to her local community.

This was over 15 years ago and a now long-forgotten hardship for Ekhlas, who secured sustainable revenue for her family by registering her home business a month ago.

Ekhlas is one of the many women who benefited from the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Support Project (LENS), a five-year programme encouraging the long-term economic growth and development potential of marginalized Jordanian communities through supporting small and micro enterprises across Jordan.

"I took part in the 'Home-Based Business Upgrade' workshops conducted by USAID LENS, which helped me widen my horizons regarding the necessary standards for high-quality products and expand my customer base," Ekhlas told The Jordan Times, adding that "with home businesses, the main challenge is economic, because customers and suppliers are not always able to pay me on the spot, which can be a great problem for my family's daily life".

The only provider for her family of eight, Ekhlas has since seen the demand for her products grow on an annual basis.

"Even if I registered my business just a month ago, I can really see the difference. We are no longer worried about having food on the table the next day," she rejoiced, stressing that "I think it is very important for women and youth to work, whether to find a purpose in life or to be able to fill the financial gap they may face".

Ekhlas said her work has become a "true passion", adding "I can't imagine myself without it, especially since my sons started working with me".

She is now planning to expand her business by opening a shop outside of home and get the equipment needed to improve her dairy products.

"The most important things I gained from the training were the knowledge on food safety and hygiene, as well as the opportunity to participate in different bazars which exposed me to new markets," Ekhlas concluded.

"Home-based businesses, including those in artisanal food processing, have enormous potential in terms of talent, business skills and high quality products to accelerate broad-based, inclusive economic development and promote women's involvement in Jordan's workforce," a USAID representative told The Jordan Times.

Zarqa resident Kareemah Qasem also found herself in a similar situation having to provide for her eight children's education, lacking any other income.

"Seven years ago, I started making makdous, vinegar and different desserts that I sold to a small circle around me. I only used natural ingredients which is what people were looking for and what was available to me," she recalled.

"I faced a lot of challenges at the beginning but, when the customers noticed the quality of my products, they started believing in me," said Kareemah, who registered her business under the name "Yafa for natural products".

The mother of eight was advised by community-based organizations in her area to undertake USAID LENS trainings in food hygiene, marketing and packaging.

"The training left a huge impact on my work, as it enabled me to learn the basics of marketing and packaging.

Gaining the ropes of food hygiene helped establish customers' trust in the quality of my products," she told The Jordan Times, noting that her business now employs four women, "which is really an added value for my local community".

"It is very important for all women and young people who have their own businesses -- even if informal -- to keep developing them. Such trainings can truly help in widening our horizons and change our way of thinking," Kareemah underscored, encouraging every single woman to join such workshops in order to benefit from their impact on the professional and personal levels.

"I was not only able to pay for all my children's college education, but I also managed to make a change in my community by employing some of my peers while doing what I love," she concluded.

"Jordanian micro and small food processors operate mostly in local or neighbouring markets. They are usually marginalised by low production volumes, high transaction costs, and poor market infrastructure, therefore having a hard time accessing higher value-added markets, while there is a growing demand for artisanal food products made with local ingredients," the statement noted, commending the success of the women who have been involved in the project.

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